Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, carried out a complex suicide assault against the presidential compound in a highly secured area of Mogadishu, Somalia today. Several government officials are reported to have been killed during the assault.
A suicide assault team estimated at 10 men strong launched the attack today as officials were praying at a mosque inside the compound. The heavily armed fighters, who were traveling in three cars and dressed in uniforms worn by guards at the presidential palace, were able to talk their way past the outer perimeter of security.
One of the cars was rigged as a suicide bomb, which was rammed into a wall inside the compound. The other fighters dismounted their cars and engaged Somali troops.
“All the Shabaab fighters perished, some blew up themselves while others were shot dead. Several government guards also died,” a senior police official told Reuters.
Several Somali soldiers are reported to have been killed. Other officials said that the secretary of the prime minister’s office as well as the former National Intelligence and Security Agency chief were killed in the fighting, Garowe reported.
Today’s suicide attack is the second in the capital in a week. On Feb. 14, a suicide bomber killed seven people in an attack that targeted a United Nations convoy as it traveled through Mogadishu.
Shabaab has been making a push to regain control of areas of the capital after being ousted during an African Union and Somali offensive that began in 2012. Fighting broke out in the Huriya district of Mogadishu two days ago after Shabaab attacked military bases there. Before launching its attacks, Shabaab distributed letters to businesses warning the owners not to open.
In the past, Shabaab has shown it can penetrate security at the heavily protected areas in the capital and carry out deadly attacks. AMISOM, Somali government and military officials, and nongovernmental organizations have been the target of Shabaab suicide assaults and bombings. In one such incident, in September of 2012, three suicide bombers attacked Somalia’s president and Kenya’s foreign minister as they were speaking at a hotel in Mogadishu.
The last major suicide assault in the capital city took place in June 2013, when a Shabaab team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu. Several UNDP employees were killed and Shabaab briefly took over the compound.
Shabaab has also executed a suicide attack outside Somalia’s borders: the July 11, 2010 double suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people. It was carried out by a suicide cell called the Saleh ali Nabhan Brigade, which is named after the al Qaeda leader who served as Shabaab’s military commander before he was killed in a US special operations raid in September 2009.
Although Shabaab abandoned Mogadishu, Kismayo, and other large cities in Somalia after a combined African Union, Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Somali offensive, it still controls several major towns and cities along the coast between Kismayo and Mogadishu, including Jilib, Baraawe, and Merca, as well as other areas throughout the country.
Shabaab and its Kenyan branch, the Muslim Youth Center, formally joined al Qaeda in February 2012. The east African terror groups were closely tied to al Qaeda for years prior, however; Shabaab leaders had openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda long before the official merger.
Al Qaeda and its affiliates and allies have carried out numerous suicide assaults such as the one in Somalia today in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, and Niger.